Alternate Title: Oh, Wiki You're So Fine...
First thing's first: This was the best all-around game I've seen the team play this season, which isn't saying much. Still, I like what I'm seeing from Tony Armas, and even though it kills me that Fonzie has a mental block that prevents him from hitting anywhere below leadoff, he's still one hell of a sparkplug at the top of the lineup. If he can pull a Brady Anderson and hit 50 homers from the top spot I almost won't care when he finishes the season with only 80 RBI.
Undoubtedly the play of the game occured in the 5th inning. The Nats were up 1-0 on Alf's solo homer when Nick Johnson... yes, that Nick Johnson, beat out a grounder to first on a play Adam LaRoche apparently lost interest in. (In fairness it was actually a tie, and I think LaRoche might have edged him out,) but Nick deserved the call because there was no reason it should have been that close. In Triple Play lore, a "tie goes to the runner" play will ever after be known as a "LaRoche."
So, a rare thank you to Frank Robinson for emphasis on hustle. My disagreements with the Cap'n Hook school of game management are legion, but I have no quarrel with his focus on effort. Even when Carlos "Cheeseburglar" Baerga was "playing" 1B for the Nats he showed more hustle than Adam LaRoche could muster on a routine inning-ending grounder. And as we all know, Carlos regularly played the field while eating a rack of ribs. (Or at least that's how I remember it.)
And, in a rare display of opportunism, the Nats took advantage of their 4th out to notch 4 unearned runs and chase Braves starter John Thomson. Ryan Church picked an excellent time to remind us that he was still on the roster, lashing a 2 RBI single that accounted for half the Nationals unearned runs. Nats bats continued to feast on Aussie reliever Peter Moylan in the next inning, adding 3 more to the scoreboard.
After that Tony Armas locked down the Braves through the 7th. Tex pitched a run free 8th and was inexplicably yanked to give Felix Rodriguez the chance to give up a meaningless but annoying 9th inning homer to Wilson Betimit, the Wily Mo Pena of infielders. Tony Armas now has both of the wins on this roadtrip but sadly he is not scheduled to pitch against the Cubs.
This game also marked the return of Wiki Gonzalez from exile. According to the Nationals beat writer who is not Justice B. Hill (freakin' sweet name) Gonzalez is expected to be the Nats primary catcher while Brian Schneider is on the DL. (No word on whether Schneider will be mocked for his lack of toughness while rehabbing his "hamstring injury.") Gonzalez was recalled despite the return of Robert "Chuck" Fick and the presence of Matt LeCroy because Jim Bowden, in his infinite wisdom, decided we need a catcher who might actually attempt to throw out a runner every few games or so. (Which Wiki did quite nicely, nailing Jeff Francoeur at 2B.)
For those of you keeping score at home the Nats 25-man roster, at present, includes 3 "catchers" (Gonzalez, LeCroy, Fick) 5 "first basemen" (Johnson, LeCroy, Ward, Fick, Anderson) 4 "second basemen" (Vidro, Anderson, Jackson, Soriano) and 8 "outfielders" (Guillen, Church, Byrd, Soriano, Ward, Anderson, Jackson, Fick.) That's some serious roster flexibility, granted some of these guys play their positions like Britney Spears "sings." But, with all the problems this team has do we really need a 3rd C/4th 1B/8 OF more than a middle reliever?
If you want to send Jason Bergmann back to the Zephyrs to figure out how to... you know, throw strikes, that's fine. But for God's sake don't replace him with Robert Fick. You've just increased Joey Eischen's workload exponentially! Why not bring back Saul Rivera, and see if he can actually pitch at the big league level? Or Kevin Gryboski, and see if he can still pitch at the big league level? Or Travis Hughes, who might at least be able to knock down a few line drives with his double-XL uniform?
Do you see what I'm getting at here? We don't need Robert Fick. (Nobody needs Robert Fick, but that's beside the point.) It's like some drunken moron once said, "Pitching, pitching pitching."
P.S. Frank Robinson was ejected from Saturday night's game by home plate umpire John Hirshbeck after Robinson said something to catcher Matt LeCroy that Hirshbeck overheard and thought was directed at him.
This bizarre sequence of events is the perfect excuse for the first ever Nats Triple Play Fill-in-the-Blanks Contest. What could Robinson have said to LeCroy that would have gotten him tossed by Hirshbeck? Best answer earns the admiration of three cheap, lazy bloggers.
(Employees of Nats Triple Play, their spouses and families are not eligible to earn admiration.)